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How Can Herd Mentality be Surpassed

Updated: Mar 11

A herd of sheeps being driven by military boats.


Introduction


Herd mentality is a phenomenon that has always existed among humans. However, it is now more heavily recorded in the media every day, and thus can have a greater influence than ever before. It is also more tolerated than ever before as long as one's life is not threathened in the process (Like in the case of cancel culture, which can lead people to lose their jobs, and not only hinder their freedom of speech).


However, one can overcome the tyranny of the herd mentality by adopting the following traits and by improving them through regular practice:



Courage


It is very difficult to upset or disappoint our fellow companions in the journey of life - family, friends, partner, colleagues. It is hard to see them suffer or even insult us just because we decided to do something that contradicts their expectations of us.


However, courage is a necessity to overcome offenses from other people and to admit and live with the fact that sometimes we have our own thoughts, feelings, and motives that do not always have to correlate with those of others.


I once went near a tennis court, and a tennis ball was accidentally thrown near me. One of the players asked me to retrieve the ball, but I said that I was in a hurry (and I really was). The player got mad and called me a "moronic kid." I was deeply insulted, but I knew that people in a hurry are not by definition morons. It gave me the courage to continue to walk away.


To admit that we are flawed beings, and to embrace our flaws, that requires courage as well. The courage to admit: "I can't necessarily be at the same standards other people expect me reach". And one of the functions of herd mentality is the expectation for you to conform.


Logic


Logic is what usually convinces people to put their beliefs into something and to do certain deeds. Syndicate-type organizations form, for example, out of the logical interest that being under a union will benefit the self or their faction.


The more logically correct and believable a belief is, the more convincing it will become to other people who are exposed to this logical structure. However, for a better understanding of logic, one that outwights mere appearance of appeal, we must become more logical beings.


Because people are convinced by logic, even with the weakest of logics, social structures and ceremonies are built. However, they often become absurd when they are noramlized, and then their followers/practitioners are compelled to follow/practice them due to the herd mentality rather than a reason independent of it. If one wants to overcome the herd mentality, one should enforce their non-conformity with a proper logical structure to support their abstaining from the herd mentality.



Just because there is a large enforcement of a certain belief by a large number of people (for example, believing in a certain popular deity or even creating a fanbase around a privilaged idol), it does not mean that a single individual cannot overcome their own logic. For logic, you see, is not a popularity contest, even though the philosopher is often comepelled to appeal to their audience's reason in order to not be regarded a crackpot theorist.


To lay the foundations for overcoming this mentality, the individual should contemplate and ponder about the following questions:


  • Why do I wish to overcome the herd mentality?

  • What do I want to achieve in this, and why do I wish to actualize the said ambitions?

  • What are the consequences of doing so?

  • Would I be satisfied with the results? If so, at what cost?

  • If not, is my cause in my perspective a justified cause, regardless of the cost?

  • What would I lose and what would I earn in this solitary revolution against the masses?

Ask yourself these questions, and attempt to answer them to the best of your ability. The more logically-convincing your answers are (even convincing to yourself), the more acceptance you will earn from others and for yourself. Thus, the easier the task will be with the decreasing withdrawal of guilt, shame, and negative isolation.


If you're able to convince yourself like you would be able to convince others, choosing to deviate from the herd should be less difficult. Some may even support or follow you, if you've managed to speak not only to their minds but also to their hearts.


Responsibility


Standing all by yourself against the masses and their beliefs is not an easy thing. Regardless of the reason that made you wish to overcome their mentality, it is all your “fault” for being against the popular beliefs and practices. Seeing the masses from the viewpoint of a single person in an empty field (even if the said person has family and friends) can be a very isolating experience. The herd is living as if nothing, even for eons, has been done under the sun; as if outsiders deserve to be condemned for being outsiders, despite the importance of being an outsider, to society.


And what is this importance I speak of? The philosopher often ought to be solitary, for example, in order to view and criticize society from an "eagle's point of view". In turn, society could benefit from his or her criticism by understanding its flaws, and working on itself further to improve.


Despite the contribution involved, that said person may find himself completely alone even in the midst of the most social of conventions. While in this ideologically solitary state of mind and being, few, and even none, may be the people who can agree upon your own systems of beliefs.


It is your responsibility to demonstrate, and not merely state, that your deviation from general society is one in which people can benefit from. Then, your status as an outsider can be seen as functional, rather than dysfunctional. That is necessary for relevancy especially to those who are more different by nature than most people, as people like them, like myself, need to prove our worth more, or else we'll be discarded.


Skepticism


Skepticism is the most fundamental aspect of being a black sheep. It is the act of being in disagreement with a certain or a set of subjects and the execution of issues. When in doubt, an outcast of the herd cannot find any answers but in him or herself only, as doubt is what tears the herd apart.


Taking doubt on something, regardless of conformity, is a very courageous act, and it is vital for one's own development, and perhaps, also for the possible development of others (in the case of making practical use of criticism).


Being skeptical is like working on a muscle on a regular basis of workouts. The more you doubt, the more your mind will be challenged and more used to it, it will become. Just like working out, being skeptical is an action that requires strength, and sometimes, rest. Habits can be broken by turning other activities into new habits as replacements.


After being skeptical about a certain subject, one needs to rest and find other occupations, so he or she will be recharged. Like with muscles, it's how we become stronger on the intellectual level, making intellectual skills like philosophizing into a regular practice.


Indeed, the intellectual is a mentally strong person, like the fit person is physically strong. The dumbbells of the intellectual are his or her skills to produce and reasonable doubts against previously-agreed agreed concepts.


Being skeptical is being a reformer: to reshape a certain issue and transform it into a new one, through a synthesis of old ideas with new ideas. Therefore, the overcomer is not only an intellectual, but an artist of ideas, a producer of potentially something new and original.


The herd mentality is defined by a lack of willingness to be open to new ideas. Even if these ideas are helpful and beneficial, the herd won't be likely to accept anything that challenges its beliefs. Therefore, this mentality is defined by the irrationality of refusing to accept anything that contradicts their narrative. That is even if their narrative is either false, or can have its flaws reduced by innovative and creative viewpoints


And for such viewpoints to be formed, existing viewpoints need to be questioned.



FInal Words


I hope this article will help fighting, even by a bit, against the power of herd mentality; especially in this age of social media and mockery against more-eccentric behaviors, online and offline. If you enjoyed reading this, consider sharing it if desired.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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